Monday, January 17, 2011

Taking Ike's warning seriously

Three days before leaving the White House in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a farewell speech to the American public. That was 50 years ago today, and part of the one-time five-star general's remarks warned future generations of the dangers of the immense defense and weapons corporations that had been created after World War II:

    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. 

Today, the United States spends almost as much on defense as every other country in the world combined, and there are somewhere around 1,000 US military bases OUTSIDE American soil. Defense contractors like Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics and others have raked in hundreds of billions of dollars since Eisenhower's speech -- and they play no small role in beating the drum when opportunities arise for the use of their weapons systems.

Aside of all other geopolitical concerns, just the cost of this military behemoth is going to end up leading to America's downfall if left unchecked. The US government needs to get it under control, and the people need to insist on it. As Ike said, the only remedy is "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry." Are we ready yet to heed his words?

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